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Don’t Worry Be Healthy: 1,3,7-Trimethylxanthine – Part III: Red Bull

-Marissa Tomko

If you follow “Don’t Worry, Be Healthy,” you’re probably well aware of the fact that I love caffeine. After all, you know what they say, you should write about what you know!

So far, I’ve talked about the way caffeine works and given a little bit of background on coffee. But what’s next you ask? Here’s a hint: it gives you wings.

If you’re not a college student, have never taken a long drive, or have never been into a 7-11, then maybe there’s a chance that my hint means nothing to you. But as for the rest of you, you know what I’m talking about—Red Bull.

I have been a fan of this beverage since I was a freshman, and in the past two and a half years, I’ve heard it all: “They’re full of sugar,” “You drink too much caffeine,” and “Did you know you don’t need that much taurine in your diet?” I am fully aware of all of these things, and my guess is that you are too. I could write about how energy drinks are bad for you, and list the negative health effects you may or may not experience when drinking them. But what I find to be more interesting is why we still drink them, despite what we know about them. It all comes down to one thing: killer advertising.

In my opinion, Red Bull has one of the most effective advertising campaigns out there. It doesn’t sell a drink; it sells a lifestyle. The brand appeals to the adventuring, extremist, free-spirited athlete in all of us. The Red Bull website has next to nothing to do with that skinny silver can that I love to drink from; it’s full of sports videos, action photography, and the latest remixes. Red Bull’s Twitter profile is slightly more geared toward the actual beverage, but its main purpose is still to sell a persona. The bio on the social media site reads: “Red Bull is the only Energy Drink that #GivesYouWings. Likes: F1, racing, skate, surf, snow, moto, BMX, MTB, X Games, wake, music, art, culture, gaming. Fun.” The feed is full of inspiring thoughts, crazy videos, and has snow-covered mountains as a background picture—that right there sold me!

I know, I know—you think I’m a sucker for advertising. And maybe I am. But this campaign does more than sell a product. It taps into the person inside of us that we love the most: the fun-loving, dancing, carefree one that we wish we could be all the time. Even though drinking a Red Bull doesn’t make that come true when we’re studying or driving home on the interstate, it is sure to remind us that that person is still there, and that the possibilities are endless.

Don’t Worry Be Healthy: 1,3,7-Trimethylxanthine – Part II: Coffee

-Marissa Tomko

There was one dark spot in my otherwise bright and sunny morning today—and I liked it. It sucked me in as I sleepily stumbled down my stairs toward its bitter lure, welcoming the way in which its steam burned my face. Black as night, I consumed it: my morning cup (or should I say pot) of coffee.

Legend has it that coffee was first discovered in the thirteenth century by an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi. As the story goes, he noticed that his goats were especially energetic after eating the berries that grew on a certain type of tree. He spread the news to the nearby monastery, where monks used the coffee berries to prolong their prayer time. While the credibility of this story is questioned, the origin of coffee can certainly be traced back to Ethiopia.

Since those spunky goats, coffee has become a profitable crop grown around the world in what is called the bean belt. It lies between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, with Hawaii being the only state in the US to grow the bitter bean. Be that as it may, the US has turned coffee into a $30 billion industry; CNBC estimates that our country drinks 400 million cups of coffee a day.

Mayo Clinic suggests that 200-300 milligrams of caffeine a day isn’t bad for you, but that drinking upwards of 500 milligrams is not healthy. To put that into more comprehensible terms, consider that a grande-sized coffee from Starbucks has 330 milligrams of caffeine. I don’t know about you, but when I do the math, I exceed my recommended dosage. In my defense though, I spread my intake throughout the day, save a recent work experience where I downed about 565 milligrams in twenty minutes. Needless to say I learned my lesson.

Coffee addicts often hear about the negative consequences of their habit: insomnia, anxiety, withdrawal headaches, and blood pressure spikes. But what about the positives? I will never forget the moment I read in a Newsweek article that claimed that women who drink four cups of coffee per day reduce their risk of becoming clinically depressed by 20 percent. Upon further investigation, I learned that those four cups also decrease my risk for liver cirrhosis by 80 percent, particularly alcoholic cirrhosis. While I drink alcohol responsibly, I interpreted this as a sign to drink my favorite caffeinated beverage with reckless abandon (thus my overdose in the workplace).

Sometimes you wake up smiling on the right side of the bed, and sometimes you don’t. In any case, I urge you to take a cue from those crazy Ethiopian goats, and kickstart your day with a fresh cup of joe.

Image by puuikibeach from http://www.flickr.com/photos/puuikibeach/3299635718/